Q&A: Sean Messamore, One of the Leaders for Knoxville Hardcourt Bike Polo

One of the leaders for Knoxville Hardcourt Bike Polo, Sean Messamore is helping organize its session April 27 at 7 p.m. and the group’s fund-raiser for the Kick Stand Knoxville bike collective May 11 at 9 p.m.

How does this bike polo work?

It’s three on three, guys on bikes, trying to score. We play with seven rules, the first is, “Don’t be a jerk, everybody came out to have fun.” Then there are rules about scoring goals—which you have to do by hitting the ball, a street hockey ball, off the ends of the mallet. Pushing the ball through with the side of your head will not count for a goal.

People try to use their heads to score?

You might try that, initially. You’re sprinting full out and it’s super fun and you lose your mallet and it might seem like a good idea.

Is it a contact sport?

Only “like contact” is allowed—body to body, bike to bike, and mallet to mallet.

Do just guys play?

Most of the time it is just guys in Knoxville right now. There are several women that play other places, and a whole legion of them called the Ladies Army. There’s also the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Association, and Tennessee is just getting going with that. There are groups in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville so far.

Do you wear helmets?

Yes. I actually have a full-face mask I wear, too—a hockey mask works great. Sometimes new people get to swinging the mallet and on rare occasions there’s an accident and someone gets a gnarly gash. That does deter some people from playing.

How big is the court?

However big you want to make it—our current one is 110 feet by 110 feet, which is considered pretty big. Most of the time people use basketball courts.

Whose idea was this club?

It originally started in 2008, this guy from Virginia had the first set of bike polo clubs around here. He started out playing with several UT students, and they played about a year or two and then it kind of died out but we’re getting it going again with social media. Andreas Bastias, who is a current UT student, is one of the original members and he plays and is also with UT Outdoor Program, so we’ve been getting some interest there. I personally have been playing about eight months, since I went to Knoxville’s community bike month events this past August. I just randomly saw a poster saying they’d be playing at Harriet Tubman Park off Magnolia and it was totally fun. I’ve been hooked from there.

Can inexperienced people try it?

Absolutely. We are fully thrilled to welcome newcomers, happy to teach you how to play—really it’s the more the merrier.

What kind of bikes do the polo players ride?

Initially most ride bikes that are a cross of mountain and road bikes—most people don’t want to trash their good bike for polo.

What makes a bike good for polo?

Most of the time you want one with a quick-turn radius, not real huge tires, short handlebars and a really small chain wheel so you can really break into a sprint fast.

How much time do you spend on this?

Having two jobs and a fiancé, it does take away from my personal life, playing on Tuesdays, maintaining the bikes, trying to get people to play—to come out and be open minded.

What’s your goal with recruiting?

For the weekly turnout, I would love to have 15-20 regulars. My dream is to have people just waiting to get in.

Is there a danger new players could get as obsessed as you are?

I hope so, I really do.

For more information about open-to-the-public polo games and the fund-raiser, including locations, see the group’s Facebook page (facebook.com/KnoxvilleHardcourtBikePolo).

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